An hour full of sweat, cycling machines and loud music at 9:30 p.m. on a Monday night may seem unappealing to the average student, but to the members of the Boston College cycling team, it’s a great way to end the day.
In fact, during the cold winter months when cycling outside is not exactly possible, the team comes together for these cycling sessions two times each week. They serve as friendly practice sessions to build up stamina, but the greater focus seems to be on the spring season to come. When the weather brightens and the roads clear, the cycling team is ready and eager to take on the roads of New England.
Extensive exposure to nature is certainly one of the high points of being a cyclist. This appreciation of exploring nature through athleticism is common to runners. It is probably fitting that many members of the cycling team are also runners, according to junior Kathryne Bauchespies. She claims that there is a greater thrill in cycling, however. “When you cycle, you can go a lot further and a lot faster than when you run, so you are a lot more entertained without being too tired out.”
When she says that cycling can take you farther, she means it. During warmer weather the team gets together to tackle 25 to 60 mile routes—the distance simply depends on how much time the cyclists have to ride.
The long practices pay off in the spring, however. Races take place every weekend in March and April, usually with 2-3 races every weekend. As part of the ECCC, the team travels as far north as Dartmouth and as far south as Rutgers.
A lot of races are considered short for the cyclists, especially when the host schools are situated in urban areas. In these cases, it’s too difficult to block off enough roads to have a long route so the route consists of repeated, short circuits which usually only last about 30 minutes apiece. Still shorter are ITT’s and TTT’s (Individual Time Trials and Team Time Trials), races that only last a couple miles.
To the delight of many members of the team, some races take place in much more spacious environments, giving the cyclists much more road to ride and significantly longer races.
Bauchespies explains, “Based on your ability level, you will race a certain distance, with the strongest cyclists racing the furthest. That translates for all of the races: the better you are the more laps you do, the further you go, and the longer you’re racing for. It gets a little bit confusing, but it doesn’t really matter where you’re racing, you just want to go as fast as you can.”
Though it may come off as a pretty calm sport, cycling can be surprisingly dangerous. Part of the crucial strategy of racing is called drafting, riding the wind of the racer in front of you to decrease the necessary work. The downfall of this strategy is that it brings a racer’s wheel awfully close to the wheel of an opponent. If one cyclist jerks his wheel a bit or falls, an entire pack of cyclists could come down. It’s no wonder that races are usually visited by an ambulance at some point as pile-ups are far from uncommon. Says Bauchspies, “You just have to be careful, know your abilities and trust in the abilities of those around you.”
Despite the danger, the cycling team stands strong and supportive behind their sport of choice. The team is remarkably close knit. Race-weekends usually entail sharing cramped cars on road trips and equally cramped hotel rooms with teammates. Circumstances such as these would be miserable if the teammates did not truly enjoy each other’s company.
By: Emily Arnold
The team consists of a variety of backgrounds and skill levels, and is certainly open to inexperienced cyclists. “We welcome all ability levels especially newcomers,” notes team officer Maureen Regan. “We have a range of experience, from grad students who ride with semi-pro groups on the weekends to freshmen who have never touched a road bike.”
Regan also reflects that “collegiate cycling is a young sport across the board, and at BC in particular we have a very supportive and relaxed environment for learning more about riding and getting into the sport, whether for recreation, triathlons, or competitive cycling.”